#NewToNext: April Wachtel of Swig + Swallow
January 2, 2019 | Inspiration
April Wachtel has worked for over 20 years in the beverage and hospitality industry and founded Swig + Swallow in 2015. She is a passionate educator, an experienced mixologist, and host and producer of the Movers and Shakers podcast. If you are ever in Brooklyn, you may find April cavorting around, rock climbing, practicing yoga, or dancing tango.
Swig + Swallow mixers can be purchased on their website, Amazon, Foodkick by Fresh Direct, and at limited Whole Foods in New York and New Jersey.
Entrepreneurship isn’t an easy path, what qualities do you believe makes someone successful?
Resilience, perseverance, and adaptability are top in my mind. So many things go wrong, or differently from how you expected in the course of running your business, that you have to be able to pick yourself up every time, shake yourself off, and ask, “what do I have to do differently to make this work?” If you can’t deal with adversity, or you’re unwilling to learn from your bumps and bruises, then entrepreneurship is probably not a great fit for you.
How had your previous work experience help you to launch and grow your business?
In my lifetime I’ve had a couple of excellent bosses, and lots of mediocre or “bad” bosses. So from an organizational and cultural perspective, I took notes on how I wanted to run my business and how I did or didn’t want to make colleagues, employees, and vendors feel. We believe diversity is invaluable, that we’d rather debate to find truth rather than surround ourselves with “yes-men,” that you hire for attitude first, and skill-set later, and so on. Coming in having thought through these principles will help us build an amazing team, and a business people love to work for.
From an industry perspective, I’ve worked in food, beverage, and hospitality for 22 years, in a range of roles- in bars, restaurants, clubs, hotels, and lounges; as a cocktail instructor, as a spirits brand ambassador, consultant, and so on. This deep domain expertise has helped us identify a gap in the market and make a product to fill it, but just as importantly, it’s helped keep us moving forward when we’ve hit rough patches with the business. Having the industry experience to know our product is differentiated AND fills a need has kept us on the right path when the going has gotten tough.
Beyond networking and building business relationships, it’s important for entrepreneurs to create a community. How did you find your tribe?
We were fortunate to have launched our business in a shared commercial kitchen, alongside over 100 other small food businesses. The camaraderie you feel while working next to others in the same situation has been incredible- and has also buoyed us when the going has been tough. We’ve made a concerted effort to maintain these relationships and to help others considering starting their own businesses. This is a case where a little bit of connection goes a long way!
What would you say is your biggest entrepreneurial “win” – the moment when you felt that you finally made it?
Oh there have been so many of these moments, all commensurate with where we were with the business at the time. We were exhilarated when first got our Restaurant Depot card (to purchase goods wholesale), designed our first real labels, when we bought our first commercial juicer, when we fulfilled our Kickstarter, when we got on Amazon, into Whole Foods, became a national vendor with WeWork, and most recently when we launched into LaGuardia Airport with our TSA-sized mixers. The key is to embrace and celebrate every success and to use it as motivation to achieve at an even higher level next time.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
Taking the first step is 100% the hardest thing you have to do. Everything gets easier after that point. The day you ask yourself the question, “what if I started a business?” is the day you need to take action. Changing a behavior is like flexing a muscle- it becomes easier and easier the more you exercise it. And, the beautiful thing is that making change in any part of your life makes it easier to make change in the areas you care about. So, all you have to do is take a small action, and it will literally open up a world of possibility that didn’t previously exist.
“The day you ask yourself the question, ‘What if I started a business?’ is the day you need to take action.”
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